Last Rites: Everything You Need To Know

Last rites are a series of religious ceremonies and rituals performed shortly before or after a person’s death. The traditions associated with last rites vary significantly depending on the culture, religion, and beliefs of those involved. This article will provide an overview of the process and practices of different religions’ last rites.

What Are Last Rites?

Last rites are ceremonies or rituals performed prior to or after a person’s death. The tradition of performing last rites can be traced back to ancient societies and is still practised in religions all over the world. They often involve prayers, blessings, and other spiritual activities intended to honour the dead person’s life and provide comfort for their grieving family members.

Last rites consist of a variety of practices that occur at different stages of life. For example, some cultures practise baptisms prior to birth while others practise burial rituals afterward. In the Catholic faith, last rites involve anointing the deceased person with holy oil and praying specific prayers over them to prepare their soul for eternal rest. Other religions, such as Hinduism and Buddhism, have their own sets of last rites and customs. Many families use funerals or memorial services as opportunities for friends and family members to come together in celebration of the deceased person’s life stories and accomplishments.

Protestant Last Rites

In Protestantism, the last rites ceremony generally reflects the individual’s beliefs and can be tailored to their specific faith. Generally, Protestant services can consist of a prayer of thanksgiving or dedication, a final sermon by the pastor, singing favorite hymns or gospel songs, and prayers from family and friends. Common Psalms that are prayed are ‘23’ (The Lord is My Shepherd) and ‘90’ (Thou Wilt Keep Him in Perfect Peace). According to some forms of Protestantism, Communion is also included during the ceremony.

Those who prefer more informal services may opt to simply have a gathering at a home or other location. During these occasions, guests can celebrate the life of the deceased through stories, poems, and readings that reflect their loved one’s values and faith. Songs and hymns chosen can also be those special to the person. Traditional wedding songs such as ‘The Lord’s Prayer’ may be included in some services as well. These small and intimate ceremonies provide an opportunity for family and friends to grieve together and find comfort in each other’s words.

Although the service may be tailored to the individual, there are still some general components found within a Protestant Last Rites. Prayers and scripture readings such as Psalm 139: 1-18 and John 14: 1-6 are some of the selections typically read during the ceremony, while others may choose short poems or favorite passages. In addition, many services will include a sermon that honors the faith of the deceased. For those who would like something slightly more formal there are even full funeral liturgies from various denominations around the world.

Hindu and Sikh Funeral Practices

Hindu and Sikh funeral practices vary depending on the area, however, mostly focus on showing a person’s last respects and honouring their spirit. Prayers are said to ask God to provide protection to the soul that is transitioning into his realm. Special rites such as milni (paying homage in exchange for blessings) and puja (ceremony of remembrance) are commonly included. Water is sprinkled over the body as a symbol of respect just before burning takes place. The family takes part in consigning the body using ghungat (veil). Hindus also often light lamps around the area to show respect and commemorate their beloved one’s life. Hindu and Sikh funeral services are typically conducted a day after death. On the morning following a death, close relatives and friends gather for prayer reciting verses from scriptures as well as singing hymns both remembered and written by elders. Grains, flowers, incense and ghee lamps are offered to god and blessings are showered upon the deceased. The family then prepares for cremation or burial of the deceased in accordance with their religious traditions. Most Hindus prefer direct cremation, known as antyscremeria, where all present at the service participate in lighting the pyre before it is lit with cow dung cakes or wood logs. Following the funeral service, friends and family visit the bereaved household to pay their respects while helping cope with feelings of grief.